Among the fragrant living and the dead

Denver, January 26, 2021

Dearest Giulia and Dinesh,

This letter is a little later than I expected, but now is the time to move forward. I have been spending some quality time processing the passing of both my parents within nine months of each other. It is difficult to wrap my head around the fact that I won’t see them ever again. And the fact that I wasn’t able to at least see them deceased leaves a psychological void that I must slowly fill in. I understand the ritual of a wake. To see someone you love dead creates closure in the mind. We get so attached to the things and people in our lives, when they are gone it is hard to break the habit of their presence. The pattern, or memories, of a person’s life, a loved one, is ingrained in one’s brain. The brain does not want to abandon that pattern, especially if there is deep loving attachment. The shock of seeing a mother or father in a coffin nudges the brain to let go of the pattern. It begins the slow process of real grief. Grief firmly based in the reality of death. I didn’t have that opportunity. Both parents are cremated. The amorphous, alien concept of an urn of ashes representing my parents is difficult to process. If I had had the opportunity to see their bodies and then the ashes, I would be in a better place to accept the slow breaking of the pattern. I am not there yet.

2021 does offer new hope, however. The last four years here in the US has been a nightmare. All that was happening politically, every day, was liking watching a movie in which the hero is killed by the evil antagonist. There is no poetic justice. The bad guys don’t get their earned punishment. Justice isn’t served, and the movie repeatedly ends, day after day, with evil triumphing over good. On January 20th, I was able to stand up and walk out of that movie theater for good. To leave that darkened theater where constant disappointment was my companion, and push open the doors into the sunlight. Justice has been served, for now. I do feel that things will change for the better. If they don’t, I will still have my home in Assisi.

I am feeling somewhat liberated from an old worn out habit. I now feel like I have the life I have been planning, the life I have been desiring for many years clearly and palpably within my reach. I have the money to buy my casale in Italy and a small place here in Colorado. These two places are home to me. They are where I want to begin the second stage of my life transforming myself into a caring, compassionate, and enlightened human being. I wish to find the leisure to be kind to others, to help those who need an empathetic heart. To better myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically. To reunite with my 8 year old self, that child who experienced samadhi and has never let the eternal flame it lit within my soul to flutter or go out. It has been a slow, constant burn informing my behaviors, my beliefs, my values, my choices. It is that flame that is helping me to grasp the mortality of my parents, my own mortality, and that of all physical existence. All is impermanent. But part of us – the biggest, best, and brightest part – never dies. It’s transformed. I have always believed what TS Eliot wrote when he said “Each and every moment is a new and shocking valuation of all we have been. “ An old zen master said “Your life begins NOW.” Why defer it or wait for a later date. My life begins now…

Healing

Goldenrod, strawberry leaf, chrysanthemum

Lavender, oak and elm

Loosestrife, the knife-bladed prairie grasses

Lacing their roots, lacing

The life of the meadow into a deep embrace

Far underground, and all their shoots

Wet at the base

With shimmering snow, dry-crested with sun

Springing out of mould years old

Leaves, living and dead, whose stealing

Odors on the cold bright air shed healing

Dear Heart, here is your healing, here

Among the fragrant living and the dead.

 

Much love to you both,

Jim

 

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